Skip to main content

First FLAS in Tlingit in the nation leads to further research in traditional uses of marine resources

August 9, 2019

In 2012–13 Michael Tillotson was awarded the nation’s first Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship in Tlingit. Tlingit traditional land includes the northwest coast of British Columbia into Alaska. Michael’s MA thesis, in the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, examined how traditional uses of marine resources by Tlingit and other Indigenous groups serve as the foundation of economic development in Indigenous communities. The research considered how the Indigenous understanding of place might interact or conflict with economic development opportunities such as aquaculture, tourism and renewable energy. During his research, he discovered the value of language in understanding culture. He explains, “My language studies have been integral to gaining a better understanding of what is at risk of being lost if Indigenous communities cannot find sustainable industries.”

After completing his MA, Michael obtained a PhD from UW’s School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences through the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) in Ocean Change (PI Terrie Klinger). For his doctoral work, Michael looked at the impacts of climate change on salmon populations and the fisheries that pursue them. As part of the IGERT, he also worked on an interdisciplinary research project that used participatory modeling to explore future scenarios of climate change in the tribal razor clam fishery. A co-written paper from this research was just published in Ecology and Society. The paper explores “how ongoing ocean change may challenge the social-ecological system surrounding the Quinault Indian Nation’s razor clam (Siliqua patula) harvest.” See

Michael just accepted a position at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, Maine, where he is studying the relationship between ocean growth and the ultimate survival of Atlantic salmon.